Daniel Craig moves past 007.
By Sondra Barr
When Daniel Craig was cast as the world’s most famous spy in 2005, most fans instantly took umbrage. A little-known British indie actor at the time, the 37 year old was everything the iconic James Bond was considered not––short, brooding, skinny, blonde, uncharismatic––and most decidedly not Sean Connery, the actor to whom all James Bonds are compared.
Outraged diehard Bond fans set up websites to voice their disapproval––danielcraigisnotbond.com, bondnotblond.com. The press was equally unrelenting with headlines like the Daily Mirror’s “The Name’s Bland––James Bland.” Talk of a 007 boycott intensified when Craig arrived by speedboat (wearing a life jacket, of all things) at the London press conference unveiling him as the new Bond.
Fans proclaimed that Bond would never be such a wuss as to don a life jacket, nor would he ever be anything but a brunette. Among the biting online comments: “Bring back Pierce! Daniel looks like a villain in a Bond movie that gets killed by 007 in the opening sequence.” “I’m sure a blonde could play James Bond, but not someone who’s so ugly and uncharismatic as Daniel Craig.”
His previous film credits did nothing to bolster his “super” spy cred––Road to Perdition, Layer Cake, and Munich, to name a few. Not to mention the little-seen film, The Mother, in which he plays a carpenter who starts sleeping with a woman in her 60s.
Craig also wasn’t especially keen on the 007 role at first. He told GQ, “It was genuinely like, my life is going to get F***ed if I do this.” He didn’t want to play what he perceived as the campy Pierce Brosnan version of Bond or be saddled with a hopelessly formulaic storyline. And, he realized that once he became the iconic spy there’d be no going back to his under the radar existence. Reading the script for Casino Royale changed the actor’s mind.
Five Bond films later, it’s hard to see anyone besides Craig inhabiting the role. His darker, tougher 007 portrayal has redefined the series and crafted it to be more modern and not as sexist and misogynistic as earlier incarnations.
“In 2005, 2006,” he told The Independent’s Paul Whitington, “all the social media stuff was still just taking off, and I wasn’t used to using it, thank God. I still don’t do social media, and as much as there are lots of good things about it, it is a place for hate and I can’t imagine how one would cope. All of that is a pressure, but I myself was like, you’ve just got to get on with it, get on with the work and do your best.”
And get to work Craig did. His first outing as 007 in Casino Royale necessitated he be well toned and ready for action, something Craig was decidedly not when he showed up for his initial day of training.
“Yes. I turned up with a bacon buttie and a rollie. That’s very true. Those were the days,” he told Whitington.
The intense physical training paid off handsomely, as evidenced when Craig emerged from the sea in a pair of swim trucks, the light glistening off his sculpted physique, in Casino Royale.
The training also gave Craig the physicality to do a majority of the stunts and fight scenes, something the actors who’ve played Bond in the past have rarely done. “Nobody told me it was OK if I didn’t do all that, so I just went OK, I’ve got to do it. And I think possibly I made a rod for my own back really, because I started doing it and the stunt co-ordinator Gary Powell was like ‘Oh great, you can do it, well do this then’ and I sort of ended up doing loads.”
“He gets his hands very dirty,” Powell told the Guardian in 2008. “Daniel puts the work in, even if it’s something he’s not keen on.” According to Powell, Craig is not fond of heights, but in Quantum of Solace, he jumped out of a three-story window onto a moving bus.
Doing his own stunts has led to numerous on-set injuries including Craig’s two front teeth being smashed out, a separated shoulder, an ankle injury, and losing the tip of a finger.
“It wasn’t as extreme as all that. I lost the pad,” he told Playboy magazine at the time. “I was bleeding a lot. I had to get it cauterized. Filming stopped and everybody went, ‘Oh my God! He sliced the end of his finger off!’ They went looking for it, but couldn’t find it.”
After five Bond movies, Craig is ready to pursue a more quiet sort of life with his wife, actress Rachel Weisz. With No Time to Die doing well in the theaters, the 53-year-old Craig has once again proved he’s a formidable 007, albeit one who’s a little gray around the edges and a bit less flexible. “You get tighter and tighter,” Craig told GQ’s Sam Knight. “And then you just don’t bounce.”
Craig won’t stray far from the public eye, however. According to People magazine, he’s the highest paid actor of 2021, taking in over $100 million due to a record breaking deal with Netflix to star in two sequels to the comedic mystery hit Knives Out.
He knew immediately that he had to make time for Knives Out, in between production delays of No Time to Die. “I don’t get to play parts like this very often,” the actor explained of his role as Benoit Blanc in an interview with the South China Morning Post. “The satisfaction of watching the film with an audience and them laughing at the same gags I laughed at when I first read it. There’s such joy and satisfaction to that.”
In the 2019 mystery film, which was nominated for three Golden Globes, Craig takes on the role of Blanc with gusto, portraying a detective with a heavy southern drawl and an eccentric approach to solving criminal cases. The sequel recently wrapped and is expected to arrive next year.
It’s a return to a more normal state for Craig, far from the hoopla of playing the world’s most famous spy. “I would just rather keep myself to myself and my home, with my wife and family, I don’t venture out a great deal and I will choose places that I want to go carefully. It’s not that I don’t like fans or appreciate how passionate they are about the films and the industry; they are entirely the ones who keep this industry moving; it’s just that I choose not to be the person who courts publicity or has loads of celebrity friends and is always out for the paparazzi to shoot me in particular hot spots.”
As for the future of Bond, Craig is grateful for the opportunity to inhabit a global icon for the past 15 years. “The idea of regretting not doing this seemed insane to me. Sitting in the corner at a bar at age 60, saying : ‘I could’ve been Bond. Buy me a drink.’ That’s the saddest place I could be. At least now at 60 I can say: ‘I was Bond. Now buy me a drink.”’